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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  November 1, 2013 3:00am-5:01am EDT

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working hard to make sure that we have thought through a plan that is complicated, but achievable in terms of logistics and security. achievable in terms of logistics and security. and i am increasingly confident that we will be able to complete this task, the elimination of syria's cw program within the target date of june 30th of next year. secondly, a couple of key factors that will contribute to the achievement of that target date and that so far are going well. first, we discussed back in geneva with the russians that the removal of dangerous precursor chemicals from syria, the bulk of which are not
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weaponized, not inside shells of warheads, would be essential to completing this task on time. the destruction plan submitted by the syrian government to the opcw embraces exactly that concept, and we are confident that we will have a host country that can work with us to affect the destruction outside of syria of these precursor chemicals. secondly, our cooperation with the russian federation has so far been strong. we will continue to expect the russian government to press the syrian government for full compliance with its obligations. this will be essential as we move ahead. third, we continue this process with our eyes wide open. we are about to enter what could be the most complicated phase in terms of both logistics and
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security. that is, the removal of chemical precursors in large quantities from several sites within syria to the coast for removal on a ship to another country. that has both big logistical problems to think through and certain security risks. at the same time, while the record so far is acceptable, we do not assume or take for granted that the syrian government will continue full compliance with its obligations. we have the tools we need granted by the opcw executive committee and by the united nations security council to press ahead on this goal. we intend to do so. this is why our statement here and publicly reflects the cautious optimism that we have at this point. thank you, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, administrator lindborg.
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>> chairman menendez, ranking member corker and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today and most especially thank you for your on going concern and for your support for humanitarian programs around the world. they are making a difference in the lives of many. since i last testified on this issue in front of this committee seven months ago, there have been 30,000 additional deaths among the syrians. in the last year the number of deaths has tripled to more than 100,000 and the number in need inside syria has climbed to more than 6.8 million. this is equivalent to the total populations of vermont, new hampshire, maine and connecticut combined. the pace of escalation is staggering. according to a recent u.n. report, in the two years of conflict syria has lost 35 years of human development progress. with the two million refugees, this is a national crisis that has become a regional crisis
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putting serious strains on the neighboring countries. behind these jarring statistics is the real toll on the syrian people, the kids who haven't gone to school for two years, the women who have endured rape and abuse and the 5 million internally displaced syrians who don't have a place to live or enough to eat. as the crisis has escalated, we have accelerated our humanitarian response. our assistance is now reaching about 4.2 million people inside syria and we're helping to support 2 million refugees. but the same stubborn challenges that i talked about seven months ago, access, security and resources continue to prevent us and others from reaching everybody who needs help to get it and things continue to escalate. in early october, fueled by the political momentum of the security council's resolution to eliminate the chemical weapons, the u.n. security council unanimously passed a presidential statement on humanitarian access.
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this statement urges all parties to the conflict to facilitate immediate access to all those affected including going across borders and across conflict lines. this agreement represents the first and the most significant show of global political will to help those who need it most, and the challenge now is to translate that commitment into real action on the ground. recent reports of starvation campaigns by the regime, of serious food shortages and disease outbreaks in areas literally blockaded, under siege by the regime underscore the urgency. the u. sft government is working to mobilize the international community to ensure lifesaving assistance reaching those who need it desperately. in the meantime we're continuing to provide humanitarian assistance through all possible channels, through the u.n., our ngo partners, local syrian
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organizations. since this time last year, u.s. aid has doubled the number of partners working inside syria and shored up systems and supply lines so we can reach all 14 gov nantz. u.s. is focused on four dough kooe areas detailed in my written testimony. it's medical care. we have set up hundreds of medical facilities and treated hundreds of thousands of patients. we are working with an unbelievably courageous group of syrian doctors and health workers who put their lives at risk on the front lines every day. we are particularly concerned about the ten cases of polio confirmed difficult who, and are calling on all parties to allow access for the vaccination campaign that who now has under way. secondly, we remain the second largest donor of emergency food crisis. our partners are now reaching more than 3 million people in syria and a million refugees each month with food.
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third, a very tough winter is ahead. there are millions more displaced this year. we're mobilizing a major winterization response. as always, we're focused on protecting the most vulnerable. women and children always fare the worst in the war. syria crisis is no exception. we have elevated our focus on the discourage of gender-based violence and worked to provide assistance both inside and in the camps. the single greatest factor limiting assistance remains the on going and intensifying conflict. the u.n. estimates 2.5 million people in need haven't received help in almost a year and the regime is actively blockaded those areas. this lays down clear markers for syrian regime regarding the world's expectations that it will enable long denied humanitarian access. we're encouraged that russia and
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china supported this agreement and we must now see that support translated into meaningful pressure. a quick word on the neighboring countries. we are working to combine our development and humanitarian resources so that we're providing help not just for the refugees, but the host communities that are buckling under the strain of this influx of refugees. we're working with closely with the international humanitarian donor community to make those resources count for the most. in conclusion, humanitarian assistance will absolutely not end the bloodshed in syria, but it is saving countless lives and it's alleviating very real pressures in the region. your support has been absolutely vital. so once again, thank you very much. and i look forward to questions. >> thank you all for your testimony. we'll start with the round of questions here. let me say, ambassador ford, i heard your statement and i appreciate your incredible service, but i didn't hear a
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strategy. that to me is challenging. now, i understand that in syria there are not great options. this is a pretty bad hand that the region, as well as all of us who care about it have been dealt. in the midst of that, there has to be some effort of a strategy to get us to where we need to be. assad is saying he'll attend geneva if there are no preconditions. that's a red line for the opposition. the opposition, as you stated, is fragmented, has its own work to do to offer a vision of where they'll come. assad is talking about running for president in 2014. he sees himself as an indispensable partner as it relates to the elimination of the chemical weapons program. and the russians in a war that you describe where there's no one to deliver a knock-out punch
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will continue to stand bias sad. so in the face of all of that, what is our strategy? what is our strategy to get the russians? what do we need to determine with the russians what it will take for them to change their calculus? what is our strategy to get the moderate, vetted elements of the opposition to be able to come together with a plan for the country? what is our strategy to be able to get the russians to help us assuming that can be done, to press assad to ultimately leave wh ? what is our strategy to move forward on the chemical weapons destruction as we're trying to get all these things together? i don't get a sense that we have a strategy. i wish the authorization that this committee passed back in
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may would have been used at that time because the dynamics were different. i think we could have far better affected the efforts towards the negotiation that we still aspire to. but the administration chose not to use that at the time. give me a sense of what this strategy is? i didn't glean it from your remarks. >> senator, it's a two-track strategy. it's a two-track strategy. first, keep pushing to get the two sides to the table. but we understand that the assad regime is a very tough, brutal regime. nancy went through the details of the suffering inflicted on the syrian people. so we will have to have pressure on the regime to get them to make concessions. pressure can come from a couple of places. one, it will come on the ground. and so we have -- we, the americans organized a group of
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11 countries which i referred to who are the primary backers of both the political and the armed ap situation and we coordinate our efforts on that, and we call that group the london 11. it includes the gulf states. it includes european states. the main backers of the syrian opposition meet regularly, both at my level and the secretary's level. most recently, as i said, october 22nd. so push for negotiations, but help the moderate opposition be in a position itself to press for concessions for the regime when it gets there. the other source of pressure will be the russians. secretary kerry has talked extensively with russian foreign minister lavrov. they speak regularly, several times a week on syria. the russians share a big interest with us in syria about not having that country as it
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becomes a failed state become a base of extremism. they have their own national security interest in that respect. they are concerned about the country, were assad to leave, becoming totally an article place. they talk about a need for a managed transition. you can't have a managed transition until the opposition itself puts forward proposals that the russians and others can look at, senator. otherwise we're in a sort of absurd chicken and egg situation. so i have been talking extensively to the opposition about putting some things on the table that the russians and the rest of the international community and most importantly other syrians can look at to say there's an al sternive. >> give us a sense of what that would be, that would assuage the syrians and the russian people. >> if assad were to go, who
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would replace him as president and what would his authorities be? we have talked to the russians extensively about what that would be. we agreed with him that the new transitioning governing body would have full authorities over the intelligence establishment, over the military establishment, over the financial structure of the country and the government? so we've agreed on that with the russians. now we need the opposition to come forward and say this is how we would put it together. very frankly, senator, they were so busy pushing us to intervene militarily that they have left aside the need to put forward this alternative which sooner or later must come. sooner or later it must come. so were they to put that forward now, the russians would at least have an opportunity to study it. i do not think they would accept it at face value, but it's something where you can begin a process, and that is our strategy, to get a process started where all of us,
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moderate opposition, united states, international community including the russians, will then put pressure on the regime and the opposition to come to a final deal. >> well, let me just say that in the midst of a civil war, having a desperate group of opposition define a national agenda needs a lot of assistance at the end of the day. and it also needs to have some understanding of what our baselines for the russians that we're going to achieve it and see if they can be commensurate at the end of the day. when i talk about a strategy, i'd like to hear -- and i'm going to move on to senator corker, but i'd like to hear in some setting the detail of what our effort is. because i just don't get the sense that we are headed anywhere there. just one final question, mr. countryman, i applaud the work being done on the chemical weapons, and it's a major concern. but originally published reports
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had that we believed there were 45 sites. as i understand it the syrians declared 23 sites. so what's the story with what we believe are the rest of the sites and how are we ensuring that we're getting access to the entire inventory of what we believe exist in syria. >> thank you, mr. chairman. on your earlier comment, i just want to say that, while assad may see himself as indispensable to the elimination of chemical weapons, that is not our view. syria, the syrian arab republic has accepted an obligation that is binding upon this government and binding upon the next government which we hope to season. that's what increases the urgency of both destroying and removing chemicals as rapidly as possible so that the regime cannot cling to its fantasy that
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it is an essential part of the process. we do have a strategy to move forward on chemical weapons destruction. we have a great advantage in this task over all the other tasks in syria in that there is no opposition to it. russia, the regime itself, the opposition, the united states and the world all want to see these chemicals removed and destroyed rapidly. it's, therefore, not a political issue. it's not an issue on which there's a disagreement between the u.s. and russia. it's rather a logistical and a technical issue. and i'd be happy to come back at any time and brief on the details of how we will get to complete elimination by the middle of next year. on your specific question, we have long tracked the sites that we believe are associated with research development, production and storage of syria's chemical
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weapons program. the number of sites, as you note, that we have tracked is more than 40. the opcw has talked this week both about visiting 21 of 23 sites and also talked about visiting 37 out of 41 facilities. it's not just a semantic issue, whether we are talking about sites and facilities, whether we are double counting, it is, as you note, a serious question that needs to be addressed. we received only on monday syria's 700 page inventory of its holdings. we're studying it carefully. it's a classified document that we would be prepared at a later point to brief in a classified setting, but we do have the tools under the opcw and under the u.n. security council
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resolution to resolve any discrepancies between what we believe and what the syrians have declared. >> we will look forward to having a classified session to get to the bottom of how many of the sites we believe are going to be pursued and what needs to be done. senator corker. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. ford, you are a figure held up by many in syria. i want to thank you for coming before us today because you have to be incredibly embarrassed at where we are, and coming in and testifying knowing what you know is happening in syria to many of the people that you know, i know, has to be tough for you to do today. let me just ask you this. the opposition that you know personally in many cases, are they faring better today since we moved towards trying to destroy the chemical weapons
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that are on the ground? are they faring better since we decided not to go ahead with military force than they were before this discussion began? >> they are deeply disappointed, senator, that we chose not to use military force. i have heard anguish from people that i have talked to over there. i've had to explain the administration's rationale. i have had to emphasize to them that our primary goal here is to find a political solution. may i? >> i'm not so concerned about the military force component. what i am concerned about is i would like for you to tell me since we've gone through this pursuit with russia relative to mr. countryman's work, which i appreciate, is the opposition on the ground faring better or
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worse since we're now pursuing the destruction of chemical weaponry? >> their position on the ground, senator, i'm going to leave a site to morale. the regime has made gains to the north. to the southeast. the opposition made gains in the south but as i said before, neither side in this awful grinding civil war is able to do a knockout punch right now. one problem which is really hampering the opposition, senator, is the really bitter divisions among the armed groups. even in the last months al qaeda groups, especially a group called the islamic state for iraq in the lavonte started
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fighting with the people we support. so they've been fighting a two-front war which seriously hampered their efforts against regime. in that sense, senator, that in particular made their position more difficult. >> and i think the humanitarian situation is worse than before. we've become familiar with folks at these refugee camps. the administration has been incredibly slow. obviously this covert policy that everybody in the world knows about where we are going to train folks covertly so we don't have to talk about it in committee settings like this, but basically we trained about 1,000 folks. our intelligence folks can train 50 to 100 a month.
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we had some kind of strategy that was minor strategy, but basically, do we really have a strategy at all relative to the opposition and building their strength against al qaeda on the ground and against the regime? >> senator, we do. today, for example, we delivered trucks to saline madris' people. >> you were going to deliver trucks when i was there does he have that lethal weaponry? >> yes. >> oh, he does. >> he does have lethal weaponry. i'm not here going to talk about anything except what the state department is doing. but the logistical help -- >> the state department is delivering weaponry? >> senator, i didn't say the state department is delivering weaponry. i said we delivered trucks today. and that is important, senator, because he's got to have a
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logistical capability. he was renting trucks before, senator. >> i met with madris before in september. those trucks were coming in the next week. now you delivered trucks in the end of october. are you satisfied with the strategy we have in syria right now with the opposition? do you feel good about it? when you talk to people on the ground and in these refugee camps, do you feel good about the strategy we have now with these people that we have left out on a limb and told them we were going to support their efforts against this regime and against al qaeda? do you feel good about what our country is doing with the opposition right now? to allow them to have some kind of say-so in the future of this country? >> senator, there isn't a person on my team at the state department who doesn't feel frustrated, frustrated by the syrian problem in general. but i have to say we do provide
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support to help them against the regime. we provide a lot of support. you may discount what we do, but it matters to saline madris. would they like more? of course they do. the work we are doing to help activists and political people trying to hold things together in alepo, to keep the hospitals running, to keep electricity in hospitals, to provide clean water matters hugely to them. but our resources ourselves are not unlimited. we are doing what we can with what we have. the problem itself is tragic. i know people myself who have been killed. it's tragic and we want to help them. ultimately, syrians must fix this problem and ultimately,
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senator, it's going to require them to sit down at a table. the sooner they start, the better. in the meantime, we will help the opposition, senator. >> i think our help to the opposition has been an embarrassme embarrassment, and i find it appalling you would sit here and act as if we are doing the things we said we would do three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago. the london 11 has to look at us as one of the most feckless nations they've ever dealt with. for you to say these trucks are being delivered today is laughable. these things have been committed months ago. i respect your care for syria, i really do. i could not be more embarrassed the way our nation let people,
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civilians down on the ground the way we have. russia is driving this now. what we've done is turned the future of syria over to russia. they have their hands on the steering wheel. i don't know how you feel good about the humanitarian crisis taking place. i don't know how you feel good about our partners, their feelings about our reliability. i appreciate your concern for the people of syria. i cannot imagine you sit here with a straight face and feel good about what we've done. i hope at some point this administration will sit down and develop a strategy, not only for syria, but for the region. because it appears to me after multiple, multiple trips, this administration acts on an ad hoc basis, looks for opportunities to slip the noose as they most recently did in syria. i hope that you'll help them
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develop a longer term strategy. >> senator corker. >> let me thank all three of our witnesses. senator ford, thank you for your service, distinguished career in diplomatic service and all three of you for what you've done. there are two related issues here. we have a civil war which the united states picked a side. i would agree with the chairman, ranking member, it hasn't been clear what our role is in regard to that civil war. although we picked a side and are providing help to the opposition. then there was the use of weapons of mass destruction chemical weapons which president obama was very clear we would not tolerate that. if necessary, we would use force. this committee supported the president in that decision that chemical weapons could not be used without a response from the international community. so you're here today to say
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you're following up on destroying those or removing those chemical weapons. but i didn't hear any one of you saying anything about the personal responsible being held accountable. i hear you say they are negotiating between the government and opposition on new government. i heard you say assad will probably not be part of that because the opposition has a veto right. but it seems we are so quiet about holding those responsible accountable for their international criminal actions and we seem to be timid because we are afraid that makes negotiations more complicated. if you don't mention them we are not going to get that accountability. maybe they'll try to take them away from us, but we can survive. they shouldn't get that message.
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can you reassure this committee and the american public that our commitment is to make sure that president assad is held accountable and those responsible for killing the people with the use of chemical weapons will be part of our negotiating strategies to make sure that they're held accountable for their criminal actions? >> senator, we have repeatedly statement, repeatedly, that regime officials are going to be held accountable. the state department's public statement in the wake of the august 21st use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of damascus specifically highlighted that. many times i personally, and the second himself have talked about accountability. . with the support of the congress
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we are training syrian investigators and how to develop war crime states. second, we are in discussions, colleagues at the state department with international governments, organizations and ju jurists what would be the best judicial structure to try these war crime dossiers. we do intend to help syrians hold people accountable with the work of international partner. >> will this be a subject on the negotiations between the opposition and government? >> i have no dowd of that, senator, because the opposition will insist upon it. >> will the united states insist upon it? >> senator, we will absolutely support the opposition putting that forward. the united states, senator, is
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not negotiating. >> i understand. the united states were prepared to use our military to stop the use of chemical weapons. are we prepared to use our political might to make sure those who use chemical weapons are held responsible for their actions? >> senator, absolutely. i talked about the resources we are already deploying to help make that happen. >> let me move to a second subject. that is the humanitarian disaster that's in syria today. 1/3 of their population has been displaced. they were up to 5 million internally displaced. 2 million externally displaced. the challenge of getting the relief into syria to help the people who have been victimized is challenging. what support are we receiving from the international community to help deal with the humanitarian crisis during this civil war? >> there has been a massive mobilization of the hurm tarn assistance.
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the u.n. has been the lead. there are substantial contributions especially from europe, kuwait hosted the u.n. appeal conference last january and has itself contributed a little more than $300 million. notably russia and china have contributed very small amounts. there is a goal, especially as we look at the extraordinary needs that continue to mount to bring as many people into the financing of this humanitarian effort as possible. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator rubio. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador ford, let me begin. i don't want anything i ask or the tone of the questions or direction to in any way not reflect on the admiration i have for your service to our country. not only that, but the, what you've shown as the consistent
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interest to the syrian people. as a representative of the administration we have a chance to ask you questions about the strategy. i know how you feel about this. you referred repeatedly to how the future of syria belongs to the syrian people. we agree with that. you also believe strongly, i think, that what happens in syria is in our vital national interests. >> senator, just the fact that syria has the risk of destabilizing the region and becoming a base for terrorist optations, absolutely. >> i want to make that clear. there was debate about why do we care about what is happening in another country. this is not just a civil war. it has implications in the region. in a few moments in the second panel we'll hear from ambassador frederic hof based on his written testimony that syria is becoming the worst of all conceivable scenarios. a failed state basically that's
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divided between assad controlling a portion of the country, the kurds controlling a portion near the turkish border and vast area controlled by jihadists that will try to use it as a base of operations to conduct destabilizing operations in iraq and eventually, potentially in jordan. would you disagree with that assessment? is that not at this point the trajectory it's headed in? >> senator, i agree with that statement. i'd like to add something. that is why it is important for countries in the region, for the russians, for the chinese and the members of the security council, permanent 5, united nations, everybody has to do more because it is going in a worst direction. >> i'm not sure the russians care about the destabilizing influence of syria and the region. i think it's in their national interest, at least they view it this way, this destabilization
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might be geo politically advantageous to them. the right goal here would have been to try to empower nonjihadists opposition forces within syria to do two things. number one, have the capacity to drive assad out of power, whether it was negotiated or otherwise, and create a functional state to replace them. number two, to leave no space within syria for these foreign fighters, these jihadists to come in and create the operational space and capacity they've now created. that would have been the best strategy moving forward. in order to do that, would have required us to identify who these nonjihadist opposition forces were and empower them and the allies in the region. i want to go to the testimony ambassador hof will offer. it took us till december 2012 to finally recognize the syrian national coalition is the legit have representative of the syrian people.
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the united states and united nations continued to recognize the assad-led government. a situation that had enormously bad humanitarian consequences for the people of syria. without an alternate government reflecting the values of nonsectarianism and citizenship many stuck with the devil they know having been denied an alternative they can see an evaluate. less we think this is only limited to syria, i want to go to the testimony we'll hear in a moment from dr. gelb who will testify a major policy failure is lack of a coherent and workable strategy. this is mideast leaders say they don't know what the u.s. strategy -- i apologize, is toward their country and region. they say it's vague and ever-changing. you say in your testimony the
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conflict in syria fostered an environment that fuels the growth of extremism and al qaeda-linked groups exploiting the situation for their benefit. we need to weigh in on behalf of those who promote freedom and tolerance. i take it you say that in the absence of doing that, by not empowering these folks, you are actually de facto empowering the people who do not promote freedom and tolerance. why didn't we do it sooner? in foreign policy, doing the right thing is not the only thing. you have to do the right thing at the right time. why did it take so long to reach this conclusion? now we find ourselves in a situation this thing you talk about doing, weighing in on behalf of those who promote freedom and liberty and tolerance may be impossible. >> senator, syrian opposition
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itself from the beginning was very atomized. that's how it survived. it didn't have clear leaders. it was a bunch of different neighborhoods. there was no national leadership. it's very hard to build up something that itself is still very incoherent. it took a long time for the opposition coalition to come together. you're right. we only recognized it in december 2012. that's true. it was only formed in mid november. we recognized it as the legitimate representative three weeks after it was established. i don't think we delayed -- we have reduced the syrian embassy here, senator, to a visa officer. frankly, that visa officer is there because a lot of the syrian americans here want syrian passports and he's able to issue them.
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if i may continue though about the administration's policy with respect to the opposition, it is still a problem in terms of the divisions. they fight each other sometimes with the same vigor that they fight the regime, even politically. it took an enormous amount of lifting from us, and i was there personally in the region, as well as some other members of this group of 11, to get the opposition coalition to bring in kurds, to bring in representatives of the armed opposition so that they would reflect those people fighting on the ground, and to bring in people from these local councils i referred to, so that it is not purely an expatriate organization. they themselves only move forward at a syrian speed. i wish they would go faster. our assistance, as i said, is not unlimited. do they need more? sure. we are trying to help them
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generate resources from other countries as well. this is in a sense a multilateral effort. we helped countries that organized assistance. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you all very much both for your service and for being here today. ambassador ford, there's been a lot of discussion so far about what our strategy is in syria. you've laid out what you believe that to be. can you talk about how we're judging whether we are being successful or not, and at what point we may determine that the strategy is either successful or not successful? and we may need to make a change? >> senator, we think that the
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destruction of the regime's chemical weapons is a huge success, in in fact it is carried out fully. and assistant secretary countryman talked to that. that was a core u.s. national security interest. i remember when i came to this committee as the nominee to be ambassador three years ago, we talked about those chemical weapons. so that is a success. can i say our efforts to create a political solution or to contain the civil war are a success? no. we are still working on that very hard. the situation itself in the country is still deteriorating, but we don't see a way for this to be solved militarily. in a civil war where communities think it's existential if they surrender they will be murdered, we have to build a political set
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up agreements between communities, otherwise the fighting goes on indefinitely. >> and to what extent are our efforts with the 11, london 11, as you say, actually having an impact? are we coordinating with the qataries and others concerned about what's happening in syria? >> when i compare it to 14, 15 months ago, it's better. it is not perfect. there could be better coordination, frankly. >> how much lethal assistance do we think is being provided by
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the russians? >> senator, i've actually never seen a detailed estimate of the dollar value of it. i can say this, that it is substantial. that it has increased from a year ago. there are more deliveries. in some cases they are militarily extremely significant. for example, general adris was telling me about these refurbished military jets. he said the ones they have make a huge difference. i think the russians would help everyone get to the negotiating table faster if they would stop these deliveries. >> either efforts, i'm sure there are efforts under way at the u.n. to try to address this, and bilateral discussions, but is there more we can be doing? are there more international
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partners we can bring to bear to try to address this? and who are they and what are they? >> there is no real effort at the united nations that i am aware of. >> should there be? >> i don't think the russians are going to pay much attention to recommendations from the u.n., but i can tell you that we have had, including at the level of the secretary, we have had a lot of discussions with the russians about this. i will, if i can take the time to share a quick story. working with some members of the london 11 countryies, we were able to turn back a russian delivery. we convinced an insurance company to withdraw its insurance coverage for the ship delivering it, but that's a rare success, senator, frankly. it would be great if we could make better progress with the russias.
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>> mr. countryman? >> the russian deliveries have become more significant, probably more significant than what iran provides in terms of military assistance. i noted senator corker's statement concern about the russians having their hand on the steering wheel in syria. there is something to that, but what is not noticed is that that costs the russians in credibility with the rest of the arab world and with the entire region when they give their unswerving support to the syrian regime. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i'm over my time but may i ask one more question. >> for miss lindborg. you talked about the vaccination challenges as we look at a potential polio outbreak in syria. is there more we should be doing to try to address that before it extends across the middle east
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in a way that would have significant implications for health and safety to people throughout the region? >> there is an actual outbreak with the ten confirmed cases. the concern, of course, is as you probably have seen in the papers, each of those cases represents the possibility of another 2,000 cases. w.h.o. already mounted a campaign to vaccinate inside syria as well as in the region. so they are driving forward. the key will be to ensure all parties grant access to those workers who are administering the vaccines. >> i understand that. i would hope we are doing everything we can to pressure the russians, the iranians and everybody else in the middle east to support this effort because it has implications for everybody. >> absolutely. we are calling on all parties to ensure that campaign can go forward. >> thank you. >> thanks.
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>> senator johnson yielded his time to senator mccain. >> i thank the witnesses. ambassador ford, i would like to point out in response to the chairman's question about a strategy, you articulated goals. you didn't articulate a strategy to call the categorizing and removal of chemical weapon as huge success. that may be, but we are now well in situations where the russians are assisting us in our irreplaceable part of our identifying and removing chemical weapons, while delivering as you just stated, increasing amounts of conventional weapons. as someone pointed out, a mother
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watching a child starve to death is not really comforting that that child has not been killed by a chemical weapon. your continued reliance on the russians i find just such defiance of history of russian behavior that it is absolutely remarkable. you continue to call this a civil war, ambassador ford. this isn't a civil war any more. this is a regional conflict. it's spread to iraq. we now have al qaeda resurgents in iraq. it's destabilizing jordan. iran is all in. hezbollah has 5,000 troops there. for you to describe this as a, quote, civil war, is a gross distortion of the facts which again makes many of us question your fundamental strategy because you don't describe the
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realities on the ground. now a usual mouthpiece for -- excuse me, usual spokesperson for the obama administration is mr. ignatius. he writes this morning in "the washington post," "the centerpiece of u.s. saudi friction is the administration's more restrained approach in syria. obama has decided to limit the u.s. commitment there to dismantling chemical weapons in a joint effort with russia, providing humanitarian relief for refugees who may experience massive suffering and loss of life this winter, and cattlizing a political process to replace president bashir assad. what president obama is not willing to do is topple assad militarily. we are not seeking to end a civil war. while the united states will continue to provide overt and
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covert aid to rebels, the goal is to strike negotiations at a peace conference in geneva, not military victory." then he goes on to say, "let's be honest, this is basically a formula for stalemate in syria with continued carnage in al qaeda growth there." did mr. ignatius adequately, correctly describe the obama administration's strategy? >> senator, we do not think there is a military solution to the conflict in syria. >> do you believe that if bashir assad has the military advantage on the ground that there is a solution? >> i don't think bashir assad can win militarily either. >> does he have the advantage on the ground now? >> only in a few places like up around alepo. he has a disadvantage on the
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east and south. >> his killing remains unchecked, ambassador ford. come on. it seems like that is a satisfactory outcome to you. the fact is he was about to be toppled a year ago. hezbollah came in and the russians stepped up their effort and the iranian revolutionary guard intervened in what you call a quote, civil war. he turned the tide and he continues to maintain his position of power and slaughtering innocent syrian civilians. and you are relying on a geneva conference, right? >> i would agree in what you said about the balance shifting against him. more and more the regime is dependent on foreign man power because of the manpower shortages i mentioned. but our goal ultimately is to
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get syrian communities that are afraid of each other to somehow come to a political agreement. i can't emphasize that enough, senator, until the alowee community that is backing assad feels it will not be slaughtered. they will keep fighting. i talk about the need while we support the moderates in the opposition, senator, for the opposition to put forward political proposals. now is the time. >> realities of warfare that someone believes they can stay in power, they are not willing to negotiate their departure. that is a fundamental principle. for you to think otherwise is obviously bizarre. the reason why the saudis have divorced themselves from the united states of america is because what you just articulated to senator corker,
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trucks. that's a great thing, trucks. as shiploads of weapons come in to the russian port. plane load after plane load land providing all kinds of lethal weapons and we are proud of the fact we gave them trucks. i am now at a position tragically where i will have to rely on the saudis to provide them with the weapons they need because it is patently obvious the united states of america is not going to do so. and in the testimony of the witnesses who follow you, we are seeing an endless slaughter, and this is a shameful chapter in american history. i thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator coons. >> thank you, chairman mendez holding this critical hearing.
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following this committee's strong authorization for use of force we should not forget assad murdered more than 100,000 of his own people and this unconscionable violence continues including the chemical weapons earlier this year but through the ongoing grinding, medieval siege warfare described in your testimony. i am please sod real progress is being made in the removal of the means of tlifring chemical weapons and that we are in the process of exhausting diplomatic alternatives, but i find it jarring that six weeks ago we sat in the same room and approved a strong policy directed by president obama, of holding assad accountable for his crimes. continuing to stand with the people but do not seem to be making progress on a number of those shared commitments.
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administrator lindborg, when i visited refugees earlier this year they expressed anger and disappointment about the delays of the promised u.s.-delivered assistance and support. in your testimony you documented some of the ways we delivered a significant amount of support across the country. would you judge just say a little bit more about what's been done to address logjams in ensuring the delivery of assistance to syria and refugees in jordan and turkey, and to help mitigate the hugely destabilizing impact of this conflict on those vital american allies? >> thank you, senator. there has been a huge international focus and a lot of work within the united states on looking at how to address this really crippling burden of the refugees in jordan and lebanon. one of the challenges is that so
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many of them are not in camps, but living in families and host communities where vital infrastructure is stressed. so we have moved to shift a lot of our development programs in jordan, particularly in cooperation with the government of jordan so that there is increased development investment in communities that are having stressed water infrasfructure, electrical systems, schools, clinics. we have the complex crisis fund working in communities in the north, in particular to increase access to clean water both for drinking and their animals. this is part of what's happening across the international donor community. there's been a lot of work done to create what is a comprehensive platform so that the relief and the development sides are working closely together, understanding that this is a severe and protracted crisis.
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we need to really think of how to maximize our resources. in terms of increasing -- >> thank you. we have very short periods. i would welcome more detail. assistant secretary countryman, i wanted to thank you for your work and testimony and mention a high level concern about increasing coordination between the regime and hezbollah. this terrorist organization, as you testified and others have spoken to, is all in on the ground. is an ongoing threat to israel and targeted americans in the past. there is any evidence of transfer of chemical weapons or advanced weapons to hezbollah and what risk do we face as this conflict continues? >> there is no such credible evidence. it is one of the things that drives u.s./russian cooperation on this particular topic that the russians share our concern that the longer these chemicals hang around syria, the greater of the risk. they could be diverted to
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extremist groups of any complexion inside or outside of syria. >> thank you. ambassador ford, if i might. one of my great concerns about the path that we have taken is the very deep sense of abandonment by the syrian opposition and the syrian people, more broadly. my impression, i think this is a quote from your testimony, they fundamentally do not trust the assad regime and are concerned they will cut a deal at the opposition's expense. while i recognize challenges posed by internal division within the opposition, which you have spoken to at length, how has this frustration and this internal division manifested itself in terms of ongoing radicalization on the ground? what do you see as the trajectory? how do we provide the vital support on the ground for the opposition, the vetted opposition in a constructive way
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that pushes towards negotiations, and how are we dealing with the significant sense of abandonment on the part of the syrian opposition by our recent actions? >> it's really important, senator, in order to undercut recruitment by groups like al qaeda for the syrians themselves not to feel abandoned. i think that is vital. we ourselves on both a political level, for example, the communique we issued last week out of london with the other countries ministers was actually very well received. it underlines our support, said that assad had no role in a transition government. it said that the regime is responsible for the conflict. politically, i think they got a good message out of that. it was needed then because of their disappointment about --
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>> this statement says, "when a transition governing body is published, assad and their associates with blood on their hands will have no role in syria." >> correct. >> can we deliver on that? >> we can, senator, when we get to one day a political negotiation along the lines of the geneva communique we can solidly defend the opposition's right to veto whoever and whatever goes in that transition government. as long as the opposition doesn't want assad in and they veto him, we'll back them up. >> i have to move forward. thank you. i'm sure we'll have the ambassador available to you. senator cain deferred to senator markey. >> thank you, mr. chairman, very much. thank you each of you for your service. you've got very tough jobs. i think we all know that. i also think we have to approach all of this with a lot of
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humility given what we've learned after we intervened in iraq, in libya and afghanistan. after what we've seen go on in egypt we should have a little humility in the united states in terms of our ability to control events on the ground in these countries in a way that allows us to basically in eye-watering detail be able to move the pieces around inside of any country. i just hope we all keep a little bit humble here begin what we've already gone through over the last several years. not with standing our concern for the humanitarian crisis and our desire to see assad be removed. may i ask you, mr. ford, if you could give us a little bit of an update at the al qaeda forces coming from iraq, on some of
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these other extremist groups. where they are making it. and where that support is coming from so we can understand the nature of the threat that we see to the moderates being successful. >> first, senator, i appreciate your understanding about the amount of resources we put in and our ability to control everything. i think that is exactly right. ultimately, this is a syrian conflict. it's not an american conflict. with respect to al qaeda, they have taken control of borders. their control of borders delayed our aid deliveries in syria. there was frustration expressed about the delays. the delays were because we had to wait until our friends in the opposition recaptured border
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points so we could get aid back into them. they have mainly focused on building up islamic courts and structures of governments well beyond the fights of the regime. in my mind, whether intentionally or not, they are almost acting as allies of the regime. it is a huge problem for our friends in the moderate opposition. the support comes mostly, not entirely, but mostly inside syria. they captured oil wells in eastern and north eastern syria and they sell the oil. so they in a sense are becoming more and more self-financed, which is a real problem. now we are going to have to work with our friends such as turkey and jordan to shut off oil cells like tanker trucks. >> are we working to accomplish
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that goal? >> we started. we had to. they also rely on things like extortion. they run rackets in cities they control. that's why they are now beginning to generate an anti-al qaeda reaction on the syrian street in some places they control, which to my mind is a very positive development. >> who funded these groups initially in order for them to have the resources to take over the oil wells or take over these cities which are terrorizing the more moderate elements of the syrian people? who financed them? deal with the external resources that have been supplied in order to accomplish those goals for the most extreme groups. >> early on in the syrian conflict when they didn't have control of oil wells and didn't have control of borders, they were absolutely getting
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financing from outside of syria through several private networks that were funneling money from places like the gulf and even places like europe. >> can you name the countries, please? >> if i say gulf in an open hearing, senator, i think that's enough, and europe. we have now opened discussions with those countries, as well, about shutting down those networks. >> may i ask, the iranians are still providing massive support for the syrian government? so even as we are negotiating with them on their nuclear weapons program, they are simultaneously undermining our efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the war in syria. if i may, in the past week it's been reported the iranian government wants to actually purchase eight new nuclear power plants. how much would that complicate our ability to ever get a
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resolution if they ever did build eight new nuclear power plants in iran? >> the iranian government in the russian federation have long been in discussion about an expansion about nuclear power in iran, russian technology in iran. they make announcements about it regularly. i think it is unlikely to proceed very far, very fast until bush-air which has been on the verge of opening many years does begin to function. the negotiation of the five plus one with iran is complex enough as it is. i do not believe that an expansion of nuclear power or intention to expand that will happen much later really adds to the nature of the negotiation we're in right now. >> may i just say that iran is a
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big part of this whole puzzle because of assad, hezbollah. there it is sitting there with a separate agenda totally contrary to our national interest. we are fortunate our deal with the shah to sell six nuclear power plants was not completed before he fell or the ayatollah would have had six nuclear power plants with uranium and plutonium in that country that. would have been a disaster. for us to let them repeat history because that's been their plan to use the civilian nuclear power plants as a cover for nuclear weapons program, that we have to deal it with now rather than later. we have to make it part of a program that says do you not have an inherent right to these nuclear power plants and we'll block it if we don't, we'll return to this whole issue in another 20 years when those programs get converted to a nuclear weapons program with the next regime. i just say it's very important for us to look down the line here to understand what the
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iranians have as their goal to create a regional and assad is part of that. i don't think article 4 is valid in terms of the iranians and their ability to actually qualify for our civilian nuclear programs in the future. i think it has to be halted. i will work very hard to make sure those eight nuclear power plants are never constructed and no one who is in alliance with us is ever allowed to transfer those technologies in the future under the guise of an iaea from the history we already lived there. >> thank you, mr. chairman and members who are testifying today. an observation on a couple of questions. much comment around the table about our frustration, what is our strategy, the frustration you feel doing this work, the disappointment that members of the opposition felt when we did
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not undertake military action, so we are all grappling with this frustration and loss in the u.s. prestige in the area over this and other items. i'm wrestling, mr. chair, with at the root of this, having voted for the authorization with many members of this committee, and it's a vote i would willingly cast again tomorrow. i felt like crossing that line of use of chemical weapons against civilians necessitated that strong response. the fact you both led us to that point changed the equation for syria and russia and created an opening to have the dialogue about chemical weapons. that is good that these weapons are being destroyed as good. the production being destroyed is good. we are still seeing a whole lot of bad. we have to grapple with one thing. even for such an obvious good as punishing a country for using chemical weapons against civilians, the american public was not into the mission. we were into the mission as
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measured by what i was hearing from my constituents. they were telling me we don't want to do this. if the effort had been described we are doing this not because of chemical weapons but to change a regime away even from a murderous dictator like assad, i think the population would have been even more overwhelmingly american public saying we don't want to do this because there is a fatigue that the american public are feeling now about the limits of our efforts in this part of the world. we had hubris and now have to have humility about the outcome. i hope as a committee we have a time less back and forthwith witnesses and with each other to talk about what our public is telling us.
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i would vote authorization tomorrow because crossing the line with civilians has got to have a consequence, but the notion of being more deeply involved and more aid to shafting and fragmented opposition. our public is telling us they don't want us to do it. whether that causes us to lose prestige abroad or not, that's what the public is telling us. either we have to make a case differently, explain the stakes in a different way or grapple with what it means that our public, after 12 years of war in the general real estate is feeling fatigued about it. those are big tough questions. let me jump to some -- i don't have answers to them. i'm struggling with them here. specific things. mr. countryman, you were asked a question by the chair about this discrepancy in the sites. you might have addressed it when i was out of the room.
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the opc, we have intelligence suggests a number of sites. opcw looked at 21-23. i'm assuming that the intel we have about additional sites that weren't on the inventory is material we share with the opcw. we are trying to get them as much information as we can so they can expand the list of sites to be reviewed. this is the first time i dealt with an issue about opcw and inspections. talk about what we share with them and how they follow up with this information we give them about insufficiency of inventory. >> we share information appropriately with the opcw. it is a cooperative process. let me start here, which is to say we have received only on monday of this week the comprehensive declaration by syria of its holdings. it's over 700 pages and quite detailed. we are assessing it now.
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there will be a point at which we'll have some of the assessment of the gaps in that document, differences between what's declared and what we believe we know that we could discuss in a more closed session. on the question of sites, we have the tools to reconcile any gaps, any discrepancies. part of it, i think, may have a simple explanation. for example, opcw in its statement yesterday refers to 23 sites, but also refers to 41 facilities. covering differences in definition between sites and facilities is part of the answer. i don't want to speculate on what the rest of the answer is. only to emphasize we have the tools, the resources to resolve those differences, and we will. >> one brief additional, if i may. does the united states have
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confidence in the opcw and their technical capacity, their independence and objectivity? >> in their technical capacity and objectivity, absolutely. they have done a remarkable job in a difficult security environment so far, and we salute the organization and the inspectors of many different nationalities who have done that job. >> great. thank you, mr. chair. >> senator murphy. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you all for being here. i'm sorry i missed a portion of the hearing. i had another one around the corner. a few brief questions, some which you may have touched on already. ambassador ford you spent some time already talking about the infighting currently happening within the rebel group structure. we had a lot of conversation here during our debate about reauthorization about the influence that the extremist groups had within that coalition. some of which as it turns out had come from people that were
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partially on the payroll of some of those opposition groups. i know you touched on this a bit, but having just come from a conference in africa which we were seeing some pretty unbelievable numbers of foreign fighters coming in from europe and pretty fierce competition amongst different rebel groups to recruit those foreign fighters, more now, more dangerous and more extreme than jabat itself, can you talk about the infighting even now within the extremist groups? forget the infighting happening in very public ways with large numbers of fighters being killed between the mainstream opposition forces and the extremist forces. we now have just growing competition amongst their competitors to bring foreign fighters in. one of the benefits seems to be we can track it pretty well.
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they spend so much time trumpeting their success that we have a good idea who is going where. it suggests that the fractures within the opposition are not just about mainstream versus extremist groups. >> senator, you're absolutely right. there is more. there are two al qaeda groups in syria. there's one we designated as a foreign terrorist organization affiliated with al qaeda and iraq last year, 11 months ago. now in the last, i would say seven months, the islamic state for iraq in lavonte appeared as a separate entity and foreign fighters. to have more syrians but it is connected to al qaeda and to al qaeda's leadership. but at the same time, there is
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this competing group, the islamic state, with direct ties out of iraq. they are fighting each other in some places in northern syria and also in the northeastern city. in some places, just to make the battlefield even more complic e complicated, there are tactical alliances between elements of the free syrian army and the nusra front against the islamic state. in some places, then, senator, it becomes even more complicated because you have kurdish militias fightsing along other secular militias and it becomes a hodgepodge. i would point out one thing if i may, senator. just in the last month we've started to see some efforts by non-al qaeda groups to begin to try to reunite, recentralize. i don't know where that's going to go, exactly, but it wasn't
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there two months ago. i find it as a phenomena interesting. in fact, my next trip out to the eej, that's a question i'll be looking at in some detail. >> there's a desire on behalf of a lot of people on this committee to have america weigh in with greater force to try to allow the nonextremist elements to essentially win the fight within the opposition. how does the fracturing of the extremist wing of the opposition either help or hinder our efforts or others' efforts to try to empower the fsa and others to win the battle within the opposition for who sits at the negotiating table ultimately? >> in my last trip out to the region center, i had a number of meetings with leaders of fighting groups in north and northwestern syria, and i can tell you, i mean, these were the
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real commanders. we met them in turkey. they were happy to get tactical-level help wherever they could get it, and they were very up front about that. if they had a unit fighting down the street from where they were but against the same enemy, they were happy to take that help. i have to tell you, we, in the administration, regard this with a bit of caution because we do not want people that we support to be, in turn, in bed with the nusra front. so this becomes really a challenge for us in terms of directing our assistance. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. let me thank this panel. i know several of us would like to engage you further in another setting. we're going to want to pursue some of those questions in a
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classified setting. but with our thanks to all of you, let me call up ambassador hoff to our next panel. as we call them up, let me say that i want to apologize for my need to go to the senate floor. i have a new colleague from new jersey who is about to be sworn in. i need to be there for that event, but i have read your testimony, and i appreciate your insights. i have several questions that i'm going to submit for the record that i'd love to -- and maybe we'll call you if you'll be so gracious as to give us some of your time to engage. i think senator corker has also -- >> it's my understanding what we may do, we have some outstanding witnesses, is to listen to their testimony and then adjourn the meeting and ask questions formally in writing. is that acceptable? >> so with that, let me ask
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senator kain, who's been gracious enough to preside during this period of time. >> well, thank you to panel two. it's a gift to us, and i'm sorry there's so much turmoil, but it's at least a positive to be swearing in a new senator. that's a good thing. sometimes the turmoil isn't so positive. that's why many members are going, but the written testimony that you've each submitted is superb. so we do welcome ambassador hoff and leslie gell, known so well on this committee. in that order, i would like you
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to begin with opening statements and then we will see how we are in time when you finish those statements to determine whether with might ask questions before some of us need to go to the floor. thank you. >> very good. senator kaine, ranking member corker, thank you so much for your invitation. i'm delighted that you think i can contribute to something to your deliberations on what is truly a problem from hell, this problem of syria. you have my full statement, so i'll just compress things a bit in the interest of time. first point i'd like to make, if i may, is that the chemical weapons framework agreement recently arrived at and blessed by the united nations security council is most definitely a good thing. we have news this morning that syria has beaten the deadline for the destruction of its production facilities.
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much work obviously lies ahead, but an assad regime that's deprived of these materials is a good thing for 23 million syrians and for the entire neighborhood. and yet, the problem of syria at its root is not an arms control problem. chemicals are the tip of a very deep and very deadly iceberg, one that will surely, if left unattended, kill all attempts to create a political path, a negotiated settlement to this problem. the iceberg itself is a deliberate, systematic policy and practice of the assad regime to target civilians with artillery, rockets, aircraft, and missiles for murder, mayhem,
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terror, and flight. consider the words of the independent international commission of inquiry reporting to the human rights council right after the atrocities of august 21st. and i quote -- it's very brief. government and pro-government forces have continued to conduct widespread attacks on the civilian population, committing murder, torture, rape, and enforce disappearance as crimes against humanity. they have laid siege to neighborhoods and subjected them to indiscriminate shelling. government forces have committed gross violations of human rights and the war crimes of torture, hostage taking, murder, execution without due process, rape, attacking protecting objects and pillage, unquote. this independent international commission did not give a free
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pass to jihadists supposedly opposing this regime in their own dep ri dagss. but the commission clearly, clearly identified this practice of systematically targeting residential neighborhoods as a thing that is driving this unspeakable humanitarian crisis that's not only victimizing syria, but it's swamping the neighborhood, including some important american allies and friends. now, i think the obama administration understands that the chemical agreement itself, as good as it is, only seeks to saw off the tip, the visible part of this iceberg. and this is why our secretary of state is scrambling to try to put together a diplomatic process that moves syria in the direction of political
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transition from this regime to something that's actually civilized. on its current course, as we heard from the first panel, syria is indeed rapidly becoming the somalia of the lavante. one set of terrorists, the assad regime is consolidating itself in western syria. other sets of terrorists, some affiliated with al qaeda, are implanting themselves in the east. the administration is trying to jump start a diplomatic process that would pre-empt this worst of all worlds scenario. yet the obstacles are very daunting. the entire purpose of a geneva conference, or if it develops this way, a series of meetings, would be to replace the assad regime with a transitional governing body that would
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exercise full executive power in syria for an agreed period of ti time. this body would be be created by negotiations by the regime and the opposition on the basis of mutual consent. this means anyone participating in the exercise of full executive power would have to be accepted by both sides. the regime, however, has made it clear in public statements that the person, the position, the prerogatives of bashar al assad are not up for discussion at geneva. the syrian national coalition, which would lead an opposition delegation, is undecided whether or not to attend. mr. chairman, in the interest of time, let me just skip to my bottom line. i would conclude by pleading that we not avert our gaze from the humanitarian catastrophe that's unfolding before us,
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victimizing millions of syrians and harming all of their neighbors. mr. assad seems to have concluded that he can do anything he likes, provided he does it without chemicals. his external supporters, russia and iran, seem to be not at all disturbed by his military's concentration on civilian populations. if, as i regrettably suspect, political transition will not be on the table in any meaningful way any time soon, then our diplomatic effort, all of it, seems to me, has to focus on persuading tehran and moscow to get their client out of the business of war crimes and crimes against humanity. and if we want there to be a civilized alternative to this
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access of code dependency, the assad regime and its jihadist enemies of choice currently dividing syria between them, then we will have to be more serious about overseeing the process of who gets what inside syria from external sources in terms of arms and equipment. >> thank you, ambassador, hoff. mr. geld. >> i'll do my best to be brief. the start of any effort to make sense out of what we're doing in syria is to have a serious mideast strategy. we don't have it. i just talked to the leaders of the nations in the area, and
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you'll see that they're confused and dismayed and their willingness to help us on syria, to follow our lead on syria will depend in good part about our getting our act together in terms of dealing with iran, iraq, arab-israeli negotiations. these things all fit together in the real world. as far as syria itself is concerned, we do have no strategy. i think all of you touched on that point very well. we started out wanting to get rid of assad. we didn't take any efforts either militarily or diplomatically that could get rid of him. we drew red lines and then didn't do anything about them, walked away from them. and now we're in a position
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where it seems we're just going to let this war drag on with terrible consequences that fred hoff described. you know full well the horrors of it. what i would like to do is get you to think about another possibility, one that i think could hold some promise in some shape or form. and that is this. i don't think we can supply enough arms to the good rebels, the sunni moderate rebels for them to prevail. even if we added to that some kind of american bombing presence, which our military does not want and which would be very costly indeed and we don't know how effective it would be,
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even then i don't think there would be a military solution. the russians, the iranians and others would support the assad regime all the more and we'd have a stalemate at a more horrific level for the people of the region. so what i would do is this. i would focus on two things. one, what's the real threat to united states' interests? focus hard and relentlessly on that issue. and the answer is, the jihadis, nusra al qaeda and the islamists who are threatening to take over that state or good chunks of it. they are the real enemy to us, to the russians who fear these sunni nusra al qaeda radicals also. to the iranians who fear them. to the iraqi regime.
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and to the sunnis seeking to overthrow them. they all understand that the worst thing that could happen to all of them would be a takeover by the islamist extremists. that provides a basis over time for us to cajole, push both the alawite regime and our sunni friends in cooperation against the jihadis. i think there's a real basis for it. now, there would have to be political understandings as well. and i agree with all of you who feel that in the end assad must go. very important. but the alawites have to be protected. you're not going to get the cooperation from iran or from
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russia, from any of these other countries unless you do protect those alawites. so focusing on the real threat allows us to focus our military aid and our diplomacy. if we don't try to do something like that, i think the only result is what we're seeing, more fighting, more killing, more horrific suffering for the syrian people and their neighbors. thank you. >> thank you, mr. gelb. let me check with the staff. starting right now, it will likely be a 15-minute vote. let me just -- i want to ask a couple questions, and some of us will depart. we will leave the record open for questions by committee members until 5:00 tomorrow for these valuable witnesses. the statement that ambassador ford made earlier was that at
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the current time, neither side has the ability to deliver a knock-out punch to the other. is that an opinion -- i'd like each of your opinions about that statement. >> senator, i think ambassador ford was exactly correct. at this point -- at this point, you don't even have -- you don't even have a civil war in the sense of much going on in terms of units firing and maneuvering. this so-called civil war looks nothing like, pardon the expression of grant marching on richmond, senator -- >> a little sensitive where i come from. >> what we are really seeing, the primary aspect of the so-called combat is regime stand-off weaponry, artillery, aircraft, rockets, missiles pounding residential areas that it either cannot take through
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ground forces or has chosen not to take. so you really -- you really don't have much in the way of a fluid situation between units at this point. you have -- >> if the chemical weapons were in existence and could be used, that would be a knock-out punch. at least the removal of the chemical weapons from the equation took a knock-out punch away for the assad regime, correct? >> i think, senator, the chemicals were an important subset of the terror aspect here. i think we have to keep in mind that chemical weapons, as loathsome as they are, accounted in the end for a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of the deaths and injuries. >> and mr. gelb, you raise a -- the idea you put on the table about an organizing principle in syria is intriguing. what would that idea -- extend that idea to how we should be
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positioning -- if that was our goal, how should we be positioning our efforts with respect to the restart of syria's geneva discussions? >> i don't think there's going to be a serious restart of the geneva negotiations. >> so you really assume that -- this is a strategy that assumes the geneva discussions at best will be superficial and kind of window dressing but not substantive. >> i do, and i think you've got to begin to portray for both the sunni moderates we want to support and for the alawites who we can't allow to be killed, they'd be slaughtered too. a kind of solution for them, which i think ought to take place along power-sharing lines, a federal system. then-senator joe biden and i, some of you will remember, proposed a federal system for iraq as the only way to prevent
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eventual slaughter there. you have to let each of these communities basically run their own affairs within a united state. we solved our own problem, which is such a federal solution. i think we have to put that forward to them to explain that that's the only way for them to escape the continuing stalemate and the continuing horror of the war. >> let me see if senator markey has questions. >> if you could expand a little bit more on iran and russia and what you would propose that we do in order to extract the kind of actions that you believe are necessary for us to bring assad to the table. >> good to see you, senator markey. >> good to see you, sir. >> i've talked to the russians and iranians about this. i think they're quite
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sympathetic to the idea. they haven't agreed to it by any means, but it suits their interest because they want to do something in the end that protects their allies, the alawites. and they see they're not foolish. they see down the line that assad is not going to be able to stay in power and that regime is not going to be able to stay in power, but they want enough protection for them and that this presents somewhat of an answer for them. so i think we need to have this overall strategy and go and talk to them with that strategy in mind. we can't just say, hey, let's have a geneva conference. it won't work. >> and let me just, if i may, because administration officials. didn't want us specifically calling out saudi arabia or other nations. we'll just call them gulf states. do either of you feel comfortable in talking about those individual states by name
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in terms of what we should be asking from them in terms of reducing the amount of support which is going into the more radical groups that are inside of -- >> absolutely. >> could you name the countries and what it is -- >> saudi arabia and qatar mainly. although, it comes in from some other places as well. but, you know, those are countries who look to us for general protection in the region. i'm not aware that we've really leaned on them about some of this aid to the jihadis and we should. >> mr. ambassador? >> senator, i think it is -- i think it's critically important, and i recognize the operational difficulties of this. this is not a silver bullet. it's not a panacea. it would be very, very hard to do. but i think the united states has to insert itself as the
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overall supervisor of who gets what in terms of external military assistance going into opposition groups in syria. in order for us to do that effectively, you know, my sense is and i realize there are reservations about this, we have to have some skin in the game, okay. i know that there are departments and agencies of the united states government that have spent a lot of time identifying elements inside syria we want to support. i believe that we have from the saudis and others agreement in principle that this supreme military council should be a conduit. the problem is we need to be out there in charge of what's happening. >> can we be in charge if we are
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not providing an additional massive increase in lethal weaponry? >> i don't think we can, senator. i think this needs to be a department of defense activity. i think we need to scale this up and get serious. >> and if i may, mr. chairman, if i could just take -- >> and senator, if i could make this it the last question. i do not want you to mess up your 30-plus year perfect voting record as a member of congress. >> i cast the 11th largest number of votes out of 10,850 members of the house. so far i'm perfect in the senate. i was not in the house. if we did dramatically increase our military, what would the response be from the saudis, from the iranians, from the russians, from qatar and others? why does that give us a leadership role with them? why doesn't it just lead to an escalation rather than a reconciliation? >> i think the practical problem we face right now, senator, is
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that people who are syrian nationalists, people who are dedicated to the idea of a non-sectarian government of citizenship in the future are the ones finding themselves squeezed out of the picture as private money from the gulf, plus what ambassador ford described as activities inside syria, are funding al qaeda related groups and other jihadis jihadists. they're flushed with money. they're flushed with weapons. the regime on the other side is being supplied lavishly by both russia and iran. it's the people in the middle, the people who actually stand for the kinds of principles that i think everybody in this room would be comfortable with who are not getting what they need. >> thank you. >> i'm going to let you have the final word, then we'll adjourn. >> it'll just take a minute. i disagree with my friend fred hoff on this. i don't think the answer is to
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put a lot more arms in there, although we should be putting some more arms in there. i think the way we can lead, take care of our interests is to have a strategy that makes sense to the countries in the area so that they'll go along with it. they're not going to go along simply because we're providing more arms. it won't work. >> thank you, both. the record will stay open for additional questions for these witnesses or the first panel until 5:00 tomorrow. we appreciate your testimony. thank you for your
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[captions copyright national able satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] this affiliate has a base of operation in syria. it's later is subject to sanctions, and is designated a global terrorist under u.s. law. we continue to discuss security with the iraqi government, although this is only one aspect of our cooperation. political and economic tools must also be used to drain the recruiting pool of all extremist groups. we therefore welcome the prime minister's commitment to holding national parliamentary elections.
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